How To Negotiate Grades with Difficult Teaching Assistants

Throughout the course of your university career, you will be faced with difficult moments that seem unfair. Whether it’s a low grade on an assignment or you feel as though you’re entitled to an extension, you’ll find yourself need to negotiate with a professor or teaching assistant at one point or another.

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It may seem as though you have produced excellent work under a great deal of duress – because of how many hours you put in, it only seems right that you get an adequate grade to match that effort. However, many markers and graders will fail to see the beauty that you do in the work you provided them. Consequently, it’s time to visit their office hours and see if you can convince them to re-read your work and re-consider the grade they’ve allotted.

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Oftentimes, however, these educational overseers will be bias in their actions, giving way to their own stresses and demands, such that they feel like they are unable– or simply unwilling – to accommodate your request. This is why it’s important to be able to strategize and effectively discuss these issues with academic labourers.

Show That You are Engaging with the Material

By speaking up as much as possible in class and actively demonstrating a lively interest in the course material, you’ll be sure to impress any TA or professor. If someone marking your work has good reason to remember your name, they’ll be more inclined to grade you generously. While this may seem unfair to those students who are considerably shier, this is just an unfortunate fact of post secondary education – it’s about both personality and smarts, which are often entirely intertwined. The smart one is, the more vibrant their personality is likely to be.

Visit Their Office Hours

By showing that you’re dedicated and curious throughout the course of the semester, it’s likely that person responsible for your grades will be more sympathetic if and when a time comes when you’re disappointed with a grade. Hopefully, however, the hours that you put into your work will help you to avoid an awkward situation like that. Nevertheless, by planning ahead of time, you can help yourself in significant ways.

Be Your Own Lawyer

If you do happen to make a visit to their office in regard to a grade, be as specific as possible – set yourself up for success by gathering evidence and making a case for why you deserve a better grade. Ask them to explain the comments they’ve made in the margins of your work, for example. If they can’t give a satisfactory explication, it’s likely your TA wasn’t really thinking clearly enough to justify your low grade.

Moreover, you should be cross-referencing these comments with the actual rubric or assignment sheet; this will give you an edge over a reluctant educator. You ought to inquire what it is you’re being penalized for and see if that’s even a part of the assignment to begin with. If it doesn’t seem relevant to the grading scheme, you should be entitled to a higher grade.

Keep Your Cool

Don’t come off as arrogant or entitled. No matter the result of this meeting, keep a clear head and don’t express any anger towards the person grading your work. If they decide to give you the same grade, you can’t hold that against them – they are, after all, a trained professional. You’ll just have to do better next time.